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Smith, Ches/Craig Taborn/Mat Maneri: The Bell

Ches Smith is an American percussionist who has garnered some attention in the indie world as a member of the experimental pop group Xiu Xui. In more recent years he has delved into jazz music. On his new album The Bell, his first release on ECM Records, he is joined by ECM veterans Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri viola. Smith plays drums, vibraphone and timpani.

At first glance this is an extremely mellow affair. The trio are certainly a good fit for ECM as their music will not be for casual jazz fans. There is a definite classical component as well which can be heard throughout the disc.

The title track begins with a bell tolling as stark viola and piano begin to take shape. The viola brings an ethereal quality to the ambient soundscape. The overall atmosphere is quite brooding, at times almost menacing. Although mostly in the realm of ambient/avant-garde jazz, the experimental nature of this music does give it a bit of an edge. The intense drumming in the title track and the trio's chaotic improvisations in "Barely Intervallic" are prime examples. "Isn't It Over?" starts very mellow and ethereal before entering a more frantic environment where drums, viola and piano build into a cacophony of sound with each instrument repelling the other. On the aptly titled "I'll See You On The Dark Side Of The Earth" the desolate soundscape of brooding strings and sparse piano does invoke a feeling of isolation. The erratic percussion and strings add an eclecticism to the haunting sounds.

The Bell has been a difficult disc to review. On the one hand I found it difficult to get into, on the other hand I appreciate the skill and musicianship of these three players. Three stars sounds about right.

Track Listing:
1. The Bell (9:20)
2. Barely Intervallic (7:43)
3. Isn't It Over? (13:11)
4. I'll See You On The Dark Side Of The Earth (10:47)
5. I Think (9:31)
6. Wacken Open Air (5:16)
7. It's Always Winter Somewhere (5:32)
8. For Days (6:38)

Added: March 22nd 2016
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Label's Official Site
Hits: 1233
Language: english

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